Murder, Anyone? is a movie about two people trying to write a movie called Murder, Anyone? It’s a tricky, inside-out idea that ends up being more fun than you’d expect.
The story, by the late Gordon Bressack, features two aging writers, George and Charlie. They’ve decided to write an “avant-garde, surrealistic, mind-bending, neo-noir thriller.” But that’s about all they’ve decided on.
Should it be a play (a format which leaves them in complete creative control, but is unlikely to mean a big payday)? Should it be a screenplay (a format which leaves them at the mercy of studios and commercial considerations, but could also bring them a lot of cash)?
And that’s just for starters. Should the hero be American or English? Should the heroine be sweet or sociopathic? Should there really be a murder and if so, who? And how about a horror element – isn’t that really popular these days?
The gimmick is that director James Cullen Bressack then cuts back and forth between scenes of the two writers working and moments from their constantly evolving creation.
The hero goes from carrying a cricket bat to holding a blood-dropping tennis racquet. Murder motives change rapidly. (Is it greed? Hatred?) An annoying man in a chicken costume appears, to be followed soon by a dizzy fortuneteller.
Oh, and there are zombies.
It’s all more than a little silly, but everyone seems in on the joke. And it’s all so good-natured, pretty soon we’re in on it, too.
Maurice LaMarche and Charles M. Howell IV get a nice rhythm going as the squabbling hacks, and Galadriel Stineman is winningly arch as our unpredictable heroine. Former kid actor Spencer Breslin shows up for a broadly comic bit and for some reason veteran Sally Kirkland plays one of the hungry undead.
The director made the film in tribute to his late father and that feeling of affection prevails. So, too, does a personal sense of style. Although Bressack has mainly labored in the bare-bones, direct-to-streaming action genre, he shows some flair here, switching from black-and-white to color, and juggling live-theater and cinema ambiences.
It’s a lot for a modest movie to carry and, to be honest, by the end, Murder, Anyone? starts to get overwhelmed by its own ideas. I’m not sure that we needed the zombies, or the chicken costume, or Marilyn Monroe. And a late-revelation (and break-the-fourth-wall cameo by the director) feels more clever than smart.
But if you’re the right mood to begin with – a little silly, a trifle movie-obsessed, and very forgiving – Murder, Anyone? is likely to keep you there.